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Shindo’s 100th birthday screenings

by Maaya Konagai

Staff Writer

“I have depicted so many things, but I have depicted only one thing,” Kaneto Shindo once said. “It is how humans live.” And on April 22, the venerable filmmaker — the oldest working director in Japan — will celebrate his 100th birthday.

Film lovers are celebrating too, as 48 Shindo films are being screened in 11 venues around his hometown of Hiroshima this month and next under the banner “Shindo Kaneto Hyakunen no Kiseki” (“100 Years of Kaneto Shindo’s Path”).

The films are not subtitled in English, but Shindo’s award-winning movie “Hadaka no Shima (The Naked Island)” is free of dialogue anyway — so perhaps that could be your introduction to Shindo’s world.

“Hadaka no Shima” has its fans in Hollywood, as well. Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro is a Shindo aficionado, and on May 11, he will come to Japan to join the celebrations. Del Toro will host a talk show at NTT Cred Hall with Shindo’s son Jiro, along with contemporary artist Noritoshi Hirakawa, who helped arrange for Del Toro to interview Kaneto Shindo for Japanese TV last year.

Shindo was born in Hiroshima in 1912. At 22 he found work in the film-developing department of a movie studio. After gaining experience of making sets, he started to write scripts — indeed, he has provided screenplays for many other filmmakers as well as directing.

When he was 39, he finally picked up his megaphone to direct his first movie, 1951′s “Aisai Monogatari” (“The Story of a Beloved Wife”). His loathing of war is reflected in his works, such as 1952′s “Genbaku no Ko (Children of Hiroshima).” This movie created a buzz around the world when it was made, and last year it was screened for the first time in the United States by Del Toro.

When Shindo’s 2011 film “Ichimai no Hagaki (Postcard)” was released, he said it would be his last as a director. Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, meanwhile, continues to make films at 103 years old: His latest, “Gebo et l’Ombre (Gebo and the Shadow)” is due this autumn. We’d all love to see how Shindo would depict the human condition at age 100 — but for now, this retrospective should be a worthy celebration of his centenary.

For venues and other information, visit hyakunennokiseki.web.fc2.com/index.html.